It is the closing ceremony / party of my daughter’s Garin Tzabar. Garin Tzabar – literally translated as “cactus seed” – is a platform created by the Israeli Scouts, Jewish Agency and others, to accommodate young Jews from around the world, particularly children of expats Israelis abroad, who wish to make Aliya and join the IDF.
We are in Kvutzat Yavne, one of few religious kibbutzim in Israel (check out their canned olives and pickles we as well as olive oil in stores in the US). The kibbutz founders originated in Germany, made Aliya in 1929, spent time in training near Petach Tikva, and moved to their current location, just 6 km east of Ashdod in winter 1940-1941. Its 850 members comprise one of the most successful kibbutzim in the country, which has not gone through privatization, as many others have in recent years. Aside from the pickles factory, they have agriculture, poultry and other small factories including a place for making watches. This past summer, they became one of the religious kibbutzim to host Garin Tzabar.
Participants in this group come from the US, Europe and Australia, and volunteer for an intense, what some call “meaningful” IDF service. They engage in sincere, deep, soul searching; they want to contribute and give to a greater good. On that Sunday evening, on top of the jetlag and being with my daughter, my eyes just welled up each time one of them got up to speak. I owe the seed of the following to that evening.
The Hebrew names of the Torah portions comes from a significant word in the first couple of verses, something that catches our attention: hey you, with the yellow shirt! Ok, we’ll call this section “yellow shirt”, but a more serious look reveals that there are deeper insights.
For example, are Deuteronomy’s Ki Tezte and Ki Tavo coincidental neighbors, or is there meaning to the fact that the first is called “when you go out”, and the next “when you come in”, to the deeper connection between leaving and entering?
And how about these weeks now? Truma, last week’s parasha, tells us to give what we “feel like”, while Tetzave, this week’s parasha, starts with the word command! No longer a choice of “bring what you feel like” (Exodus 25:2) but something that must be done. Which way is it, doing what we want, or answering a call? Yes.
But Tetzave is not only connected to the word mitzvah. Or Hachayim (early 1700) points out that the same root for Tetzave and mitzvah is also the one in Tzavta, togetherness. Truma, on the other hand, comes from “ram”, to go up. It takes both: Truma, giving, especially what we feel like, might make us feel “on high” but has a danger of making us disconnected. Connections are not made by being “individuals” who do what they feel like, but rather from answering a call, from fulfilling one’s duty, from doing what is right.
The parasha continues with the clothing of the high priest, and next week, my daughter too, will be clothed in new garments as she joins the IDF, ready to serve. You must be proud, people say; you must be happy; you must be anxious; you must be teary. What can I say? My Jewish answer is, yes.